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Sometimes, students interested in health care management ask me about the difference between an MHA and an MBA degree. Usually, they are trying to decide between the two or whether it is worthwhile to earn both.

There are many differences and similarities between these degrees. Both can provide excellent fundamental business training. Here are a couple of the differences:

MBA degrees have the advantage of being more recognizable. (Do you know what MHA stands for?) MBAs are also provided by business schools that may offer more comprehensive business training. For example, business schools may offer more finance classes or a wider variety of strategic planning classes.

MHA degrees (Master’s in Healthcare Administration) can have the advantage of being grounded in public health. Students in these programs are required to take core public health classes, like epidemiology or health behavior/health education. This public health training can help students work more effectively with teams of public health professionals with different training. Note: Some schools offer MHSAs, MPHs or other degree titles with this focus. Search the ASPH database for more programs.

Still can’t decide? Talk to graduates or professors with these degrees. What kinds of networks do they have? Have they ever wished they had the other degree? When you look at both kinds of programs compare required courses and what resources they offer. With either choice, you may have an opportunity to take elective courses in the other program.

Want to know more about degree differences or similarities? Send me an email with your questions: [email protected].

The MHA Program at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, copied from the website:

The MHA program provides graduates with a comprehensive understanding of patient-centered health care as well as the skills needed to navigate complex administrative and management systems. Graduates are well-prepared for continual professional growth and advancement. The daily activities of the MHA graduates range from financial analysis to the coordination of volunteer efforts in a hospital or community health center.

The design of the curriculum reflects the program’s conviction that today’s health care administrator needs both a comprehensive understanding of the issues involved in patient-centered service organizations and strong business skills.